In a record-setting day, the Grosse Pointe Woods team of Rosann Kovalcik and Martin Blagdurn braved the rain to win their second straight Grosse Pointe Birding Challenge by a wide margin on Saturday, May 22.
Kovalcik and Blagdurn recorded 67 species of birds for a total of 89 points. The second place team, Mike and Judy Florian of Grosse Pointe Park, recorded 44 species for a total of 70 points. The Grosse Pointe Farms team of Mark O’Keefe recorded 42 species for 45 points, while the Grosse Pointe City team of Bill Rapai recorded 32 species for 34 points. A team receives one point for each species of bird it sees, plus one additional point for each species of bird that it records exclusively. Each team receives five points for seeing the annual “bonus bird,” which this year was the Yellow Warbler.
The competition is sponsored by Grosse Pointe Audubon, and the rules are simple. Teams have between 5 a.m. and noon to record as many bird species as possible within the boundaries of their respective cities. The teams gather at a predetermined spot at noon sharp, and a team is docked one species for each minute they are late. The challenge was started in 2005 as a fun competition among members. The winning team has possession of the Grosse Pointe Birding Challenge trophy for a year.
The Woods team not only stomped the competition this year, they bettered their 2009 total by 24 points. The team found many of their birds in the city’s Lake Front Park, where they sighted three species of tern (Caspian, Common and Forster’s) and five species of swallow (Rough-winged, Bank, Cliff, Barn and Tree). In a perfectly legal move, they recorded Cliff Swallow flying above the parking lot of a St. Clair Shores strip mall at Marter and Jefferson while standing the northwest corner of Lake Front Park.
Altogether, the four teams found 79 species of birds in the Grosse Pointes. The two biggest surprises of the day were pleasant and disappointing. A Northern Waterthrush, recorded in Grosse Pointe Farms by O’Keefe, was a great find, but none of the teams were able to find a Carolina Wren.
The sixth annual competition has been set for May 21, 2010.